Daily Kos Elections Digest

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.


• NV-Sen, NV-03: Can Democrats be this lucky? Businessman Danny Tarkanian, a deeply flawed perennial candidate who has lost five races as a Republican in the Silver State, had been considering another bid for the 3rd Congressional District, but he announced on Tuesday that he’ll mount a primary challenge from the right against GOP Sen. Dean Heller. Heller is likely the most vulnerable Republican senator facing re-election next year since he’s the only one whose state voted for Hillary Clinton, and Heller already has a major Democratic opponent in the form of Rep. Jacky Rosen.

Tarkanian may have notoriously failed to win public office yet, but his unrelenting conservatism and famous name—his father, Jerry Tarkanian, was the legendary UNLV basketball coach—keep helping him snatch the GOP nomination. Tarkanian’s most recent election saw him run for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District in the Las Vegas suburbs in 2016. Little Tark beat then-state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, the party establishment’s preference, in the Republican primary, but Tarkanian went on to lose 47-46 to Rosen herself even as Trump flipped that seat and won it 48-47. Tarkanian’s previous failures include losing a race for the 4th Congressional District in 2012 and the Senate in 2010.

One reason Tarkanian would be such a weak candidate if he ousts Heller to secure the nomination is his record of failure in his business career. Tarkanian and his family had guaranteed bad loans in a venture to build an “equestrian destination resort.” He then had to declare bankruptcy in 2012 after being hit with a $17 million judgment and ended up settling the matter for $525,000. Democrats mercilessly attacked Tarkanian as a shady businessman last year on top of using his several failed runs for office to portray him as a desperate power-seeker. Team Blue would likely be pleased if next year’s Senate contest turns into a rematch of Tarkanian and Rosen on even bluer turf.

However, the Republican primary is another matter entirely. Heller found himself between a rock and a hard place during the GOP’s deeply unpopular effort to pass a health care bill. Heller attempted to distance himself from some of the harshest aspects of the GOP’s proposal—namely slashing Medicaid in a state that had expanded it—but in the end he tried to have it both ways by voting for some versions of the bill and opposing others.

With the bill having failed—at least for now—Heller has engendered hostility on both his left and right flanks. Indeed, a recent PPP survey found Heller deeply underwater with just 22 percent approving and 55 percent disapproving. While Heller’s standing may improve as health care fades from the news, his opponents won’t be keen on dropping the politically potent issue.

Another recent poll by Strategic National tested a GOP primary matchupbetween Heller and Tarkanian and found the incumbent only had a 38-34 lead, while Heller’s approval rating was also upside down with Republicans at just 31 percent approving and 43 percent disapproving. However, Heller is unlikely to go down without a stiff fight. The Senate Leadership Fund super PAC, which has strong ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has promised it will spend seven figures to boost Heller in both the primary or general election if necessary. SLF spent a hefty $14 millionon Nevada’s competitive 2016 Senate race, so their planned involvement is no small matter.

Contending with an unpopular Republican in the White House, representing a genuine swing state, and emerging bloodied from his party’s health care failures have left Heller uniquely vulnerable next year. Even if he successfully fends off Tarkanian, a vigorous primary challenge could force the incumbent to tack to the right and leave him damaged once he faces an even stronger Democratic foe in the general election.


• AL-Sen: Sen. Luther Strange’s latest ad in Alabama’s Senate special election Republican primary continues his camp’s line of attack against Rep. Mo Brooks for opposing Trump in his own words during last year’s presidential primary. The spot plays clips of Brooks saying “I don’t think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says” and calling out Trump for his “callous insults” and “belittling” rhetoric. Strange then accuses Brooks of still harboring opposition to Trump by playing a more recent clip where Brooks states “I have never taken back any of the words or comments I made …” supposedly in reference to Trump.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that Strange’s backers at Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund have begun shifting their focus from hammering Books to attacking former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. That pivot likely indicates that they’re confident about Strange snagging one of the two runoff spots after next Tuesday’s primary, which would be consistent with the handful of publicly released polls of this race.

Moore himself is firing back against the Senate Leadership Fund with his own latest ad. Moore’s cheaply produced spot attacks Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his “D.C. slime machine” for spending millions to lie about him. It then argues that Moore will stand up for conservative ideals, fears God, and “believes what we believe,” an unsubtle attempt to appeal to Alabama’s large bloc of religious conservative voters. Moore closes by advocating voters “drain the swamp” in Washington.

• IN-Sen: State Rep. Mike Braun became the latest Republican to join the race against Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly next year after he kicked off his campaign on Monday. Braun has had an extensive business career that includes owning the distribution company Meyer Distributing, and he recently told Indy Politics that he is willing to spend enough of his own money to be competitive against his GOP primary rivals. Braun will need all the help he can get to boost his name recognition in a primary that already includes well-funded Rep. Luke Messer and will likely also see fellow Rep. Todd Rokita launch his own campaign soon.


FL-Gov: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum received some welcome news on Tuesday when a grand jury cleared him of any wrongdoing regarding his office’s use of an email system that had been paid for with $5,000 in public funds. Gillum had used the software, known as NGP VAN, on his mayoral campaign in 2014 and continued to use it to communicate with constituents after getting elected. Last year, though, a state trooper filed a criminal complaint alleging that Gillum had engaged in “grand theft” and “official misconduct” by using the service for political purposes, prompting an investigation.

The grand jury, however, rejected the trooper’s allegations entirely. IT found that 102 of 106 emails sent using NGP VAN were ordinary communications, concerning “a variety of local and regional community organizations and events,” while Gillum himself had no involvement with the four emails that may have been political in nature (or, in fact, any of the emails). In addition, the grand jury found that there was no evidence that the two staffers who were responsible for sending emails had any criminal intent that could sustain a charge of theft.

The question now for Gillum is whether, with this matter behind him, he can right his struggling campaign for governor. Gillum’s fundraising began suffering badly after this nagging story emerged, and his top staffers quit last month before any replacements could be announced. If Gillum can now start bringing in real money, though, he still has a shot, because none of the other leading contenders in the Democratic primary have raised a ton so far. But he’ll have to move fast to reassure donors and supporters that he’s still in this thing.

• KS-Gov: Assuming that GOP incumbent Sam Brownback is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as ambassador for religious freedom, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer would become Kansas’ new chief executive. Colyer sounded very interested in running for governor next year even before Brownback’s nomination was announced, and on Tuesday, Colyer confirmed that he would seek the GOP nod for a full term.

However, even a Gov. Colyer wouldn’t have a smooth path through the primary. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is leading Trump’s bogus “Election Integrity Commission,” kicked off his bid for governor before Brownback hit the eject button, and he’s made it clear that he’s not dropping out for Colyer.  Businessman Wink Hartman and ex-state Sen. Jim Barnett, who badly lost the 2006 general, also refused to halt their campaigns. And just a day before Colyer made his announcement, state Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer also announced that he would run for the Republican nomination.

As the Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske recently wrote, Colyer’s main problem seems to be that he doesn’t really intimidate anyone in the Republican Party. Colyer was Brownback’s running mate during both his successful 2010 and 2014 bids, but few voters pay much attention to the second name on the ticket, and lieutenant governors rarely attract much public interest. Kraske also writes that Colyer has a reputation as an awkward campaigner.

It doesn’t help that Brownback is extremely unpopular in this very red state. The current governor’s reactionary tax cuts have devastated Kansas’ economy, and the GOP-dominated legislature recently voted to override Brownback’s veto to repeal them. Colyer himself hasn’t established much of an independent image, and with even a significant number of Republicans angry with the status quo, that’s a huge liability for him.

Once Brownback leaves, Colyer will have a chance to introduce himself to voters. However, it may take months for Brownback’s confirmation to wind its way through the Senate, and unless he decides to resign early, Lt. Gov. Colyer will need to wait a while before he can get the public’s attention. Colyer is a wealthy former plastic surgeon, and he should have the resources to get his message out. Still, he has a lot to prove if he’s going to win what’s shaping up to be a tough primary next year. Democrats are also hoping that Brownback’s awful legacy will tarnish the eventual GOP nominee, no matter who it is.

• ME-Gov: Longtime Republican Sen. Susan Collins has been the metaphorical elephant in the room in Maine’s gubernatorial race for much of this cycle, since Collins has previously said she won’t make a decision on whether to run until the fall, even though her candidacy is widely seen as a significant possibility.  Former state Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew isn’t waiting on Collins, though, since she kicked off her campaign two months ago. Politico relays that a new PPP poll somewhat surprisingly finds Mayhew with a 44-33 lead over Collins in a hypothetical Republican primary.

Collins has routinely been one of the country’s most popular incumbents, and she won significant crossover support from Democrats in her last few re-election battles. However, her steadfast opposition to the GOP’s health care bill has likely angered the Republican primary base, creating an opening for an insurgent challenger to attack her for insufficient conservatism in the closed primary.

However, one major question mark in this race is what role Maine’s new instant-runoff voting system will play after voters passed it at the ballot box in 2016. While the system will likely face lawsuits over its implementation for state-level general elections, it’s more likely than not to take effect for primaries and federal general elections.

This new electoral system could make it harder for Collins to win the Republican primary with a plurality simply based on her universal name recognition if it becomes a more crowded affair. Even if instant-runoff voting doesn’t take effect for state general elections, Collins still might have enough sway with voters to mount a successful independent candidacy rather than face a difficult primary.

Of course, Collins has had opportunities to leave the GOP before in a state that’s long been unusually open to voting for independents, but has nonetheless remained within the party. If Collins does run for governor next year, she may find that her years of vocal strategic opposition to conservative hardliners has seriously endangered her ability to win the Republican primary in pursuit of winning over swing voters in this light-blue state.

• NY-Gov: Actress Cynthia Nixon, whom the Wall Street Journal recently reported was considering a possible challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in next year’s Democratic primary, has now publicly declined to rule out a bid. Appearing on the “Today” show on Tuesday, Nixon said, “I think there are a lot of people who would like me to run,” though she wouldn’t confirm whether she actually would. She did spend a fair bit of time hammering the governor on disparities in education funding.

The response from Cuomo’s camp was notable for two reasons. First, that there even was a response at all: In 2014, Cuomo literally refused to even acknowledge the very existence of his primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout—even when she approached him in person at a parade. Second, it was remarkably restrained. A spokesperson would only say, “We know Ms. Nixon is a passionate advocate for education, and we would be happy to sit down with her anytime to talk about it.”

For a notorious counterpuncher like Cuomo to back off, he’s either drinking Demerol milkshakes these days, or he recognizes that Nixon’s status as a celebrity non-politician makes her untouchable—for now. If she joins the fight, that’ll all change quickly.

• VA-Gov: Virginia Commonwealth University released its first poll of Virginia’s upcoming November elections and shows Democrat Ralph Northam leading Republican Ed Gillespie 42-37 for governor, delivering Team Blue some good news even if the field dates of July 17 through 25 are a few weeks old by now. Publicly available polling has been relatively limited since the June 13 primaries, making it hard to get a firm sense on where the race stands right now, but Northam has either tied or led in all of them.

VCU also gave Democrats near-identical leads in the contests for lieutenant governor and attorney general. Furthermore, the poll found that voters preferred Democratic control of the legislature by a 48-41 margin, which could augur toward major Democratic gains in the heavily gerrymandered state House of Delegates (the state Senate isn’t up for election this fall).

• WY-Gov: We finally have an important development in the slowly-moving GOP primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Matt Mead. Wyoming political columnist Bill Sniffin writes that Cynthia Lummis, who represented the entire state in the House for four terms, informed her supporters three weeks ago that she wasn’t running. Lummis hasn’t said anything publicly, but a state GOP consultant confirms to the National Journal that Lummis is a no.

Sniffin wrote that earlier this year, Lummis was “lining up supporters earlier this year and looked like a shoo-in to me,” so it’s very possible that other potential Republican candidates were waiting to see what she did. So far, the only Republican to announce a bid is businessman Bill Dahlin, but it’s not clear how serious he is. However, state Treasurer Mark Gordon and Secretary of State Ed Murray have both expressed interest, and a GOP consultant tells the National Journal that they could both self-fund.


• IL-06: Democrats already have a crowded primary to take on Republican Rep. Peter Roskam in this upscale suburban Chicago-area seat, but it may grow even more crowded still. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Democrat Trevor Orsinger, an executive with financial company CME group, has been reaching out to potential backers as he considers a bid, but Orsinger has not said anything about his interest publicly yet.

Roskam hasn’t had a close race since Democrats drew his seat to be safely Republican in the latest round of redistricting. However, the well-educated district flipped from 53-45 Romney to 50-43 Clinton, leading the party to take a closer look at targeting Roskam next year.

• MT-AL: Attorney John Heenan kicked off his campaign for Montana’s sole congressional district on Monday, becoming the first Democrat in next year’s race against recently elected GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte. Heenan works as a consumer-protection lawyer and owns a restaurant in Billings, but has not run for office himself before.

Gianforte won an expensive and divisive special election this past May in which he violently assaulted a reporter on the eve of Election Day. That incident sparked widespread condemnation, but Gianforte ultimately prevailed over Democrat Rob Quist by a 50-44 margin. Gianforte later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and avoided jail time in favor of community service and anger-management counseling, but Democrats will undoubtedly hope that the whole affair has left the incumbent tarnished in next year’s election in this usually red-leaning state.

• NJ-11: Woodland Park Mayor Keith Kazmark, a Democrat, had previously been mentioned as a possible House candidate next year, but had so far not said anything about his intentions publicly. However, Kazmark recently filed with the FEC to run and announced that he is “exploring” a campaign for Congress in the Morris County-centric 11th District. Kazmark still faces re-election this November, and may be waiting until afterward to formally declare that he’s running for higher office. Woodland Park only has about 12,000 people, meaning he’ll likely be starting out with relatively little name recognition in the district.

Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen has never faced a close race in this suburban district, but the highly educated seat swung from 52-47 Romney to just 49-48 Trump, while the incumbent played an instrumental role in shepherding Trump’s health care bill through the House. However, Kazmark would first have to secure the Democratic nomination if he hopes to take on Frelinghuysen. Passaic County Freeholder John Bartlett and former federal prosecutor Mikie Sherrill are both already running for Team Blue.

One other Democrat won’t be joining them, however, as longtime Assemblyman John McKeon announced on Tuesday that he won’t run. The national party had reportedly been recruiting McKeon earlier in the cycle, but he may have wanted to avoid a competitive primary to face the entrenched incumbent. Sherrill’s campaign in particular had raised $244,000 last quarter and already snagged endorsements from major Democratic-leaning organizations like VoteVets and EMILY’s List, though this primary is still far from settled.

• VA-02: Democratic state Sen. Lynwood Lewis finally went on the record expressing interest in a possible bid for House next year in the Virginia Beach-based 2nd District. The National Journal reports that Lewis had previously declined to run for this seat back in January, but revealed he began to reconsider in May as all the “craziness that’s going on in Washington” persisted. Lewis will reportedly make a decision in September. As the state senator for Virginia’s Eastern Shore and a good chunk of this House seat, Lewis would be a solid recruit for Democrats against first-term Republican Rep. Scott Taylor, who won’t be easy to beat in a seat that favored Trump 49-45.

• WA-08On Monday, pediatrician Kim Schrier became the newest Democratic candidate to launch a campaign against Republican Rep. Dave Reichert in Washington’s 8th District, which spans from greater Seattle’s eastern suburbs across the Cascades. Schrier does not appear to have any previous political experience.

Reichert hasn’t faced a close re-election battle since his seat was made redder to protect him in the last round of redistricting, but it still favored Clinton 48-45, giving Democrats hope that it could be vulnerable in a wave election. Schrier joins a Democratic field for the top-two primary that includes Issaquah City Councilor Tola Marts and employment attorney Jason Rittereiser.

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Trump-praising Democrat could hurt party’s chance to win race for Florida governor

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.


• FL-Gov: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has long been considering a bid for governor next year, but he’s been coy about his intentions for just as long. The self-described “radical centrist,” who won office identifying as a Democrat, had nevertheless toyed earlier this year with the idea of running as an independent or even a Republican, going so far as to say, “I actually like the Republican Party, and I like a lot of Republican ideas.” However, the window for 2018 candidates to change their party affiliation has now closed, meaning Levine won’t be able to run as a Republican, but could still do so as an independent.

We still don’t know for sure whether he’ll go for it, but Levine is certainly fundraising like he’s running for higher office. Reportedly worth $100 million, the mayor raised $225,000 from donors in July and gave his own campaign another $275,000, bringing his total self-funding to $2.6 million this cycle. That pace already puts Levine at the front of the pack financially, ahead of every top-tier Democrat who’s announced already, a group that includes former Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and real estate company owner Chris King.

But Levine’s prospect of winning the nomination, or at least damaging the ultimate nominee, should raise alarms for Team Blue. Levine not only has a reputation for acting like Donald Trump, he even seems to like the man occupying the White House—an astounding thing for a candidate who’s hoping to run in a Democratic primary.

On the behavioral front, Levine is known for lashing out at opponents on social media, and his grasp on international norms is weak: At at a forum on Cuba earlier this year, he wondered aloud, “Why aren’t we discussing the invasion of the island?” (A spokesman later swore he was joking.) So it fits that Levine recently went on Fox News with the thuggish Brian Kilmeade to declare, “So far, I think the president’s done a very good job.” How many Democrats in the state of Florida could possibly agree?

While Levine seems to think his supposed authenticity will be a plus with voters, he’s painting himself into a corner with his openness to Trump and Republican policies. Unfortunately, with the Democratic field still raising money somewhat slowly, Levine’s ability to pump huge sums into the race makes him a real threat to secure the nomination. More dangerously, running an independent campaign could deal serious damage to Democrats, since Levine’s extensive history of involvement with the party likely means he would take more votes from the left than the right despite his newfound admiration of Trump.


• AL-Sen: JMC Analytics recently released their first survey of the Republican primary field in Alabama’s Senate special election, and their early August poll unsurprisingly projects that no candidate will come close to breaking the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff. The pollster finds that former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leads with 30 percent, while there’s a tight battle for the second runoff spot between appointed Sen. Luther Strange at 22 percent and Rep. Mo Brooks at 19 percent. No other candidate surpassed double digits in the poll.

This survey’s results are a departure from recent polls from other outfits, which have recently shown Brooks lagging badly behind Moore and Strange. Unsurprisingly, Strange and his allies at the Senate Leadership Fund, which has ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have made Brooks the main focus of their TV ad bombardment ahead of next week’s primary in an effort to ensure Strange makes it to the runoff against Moore.

• MN-Sen: Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar appears to be a strong favorite to win a third term in this light-blue state, but Republicans will at least have a seemingly serious candidate to oppose her in 2018. State Rep. Jim Newberger recently kicked off his campaign against Klobuchar, making him the first noteworthy Republican in the race. Newberger says he’ll abide by the party nominating convention process if other Republicans also run. While Donald Trump just narrowly lost Minnesota, the popular incumbent is a prodigious fundraiser. Newberger will need a lot to go right next year, but he’ll at least give the GOP a chance if the stars align.


• IA-Gov: Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who recently assumed the office after former Gov. Terry Branstad became Trump’s ambassador to China, has been consolidating her support among top GOP officials ahead of next year’s primary. On Friday, two-term GOP Rep. Rod Blum announced that he is backing the new governor over Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, even though Corbett hails from Blum’s 1st Congressional District in northeastern Iowa.

• KS-Gov: State Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer became the latest Kansas Republican to jump into next year’s gubernatorial race when he announced his candidacy on Monday. A certified public accountant, Selzer is finishing up his first term as insurance commissioner after winning office in 2014.

Selzer joins an increasingly crowded primary field to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, businessman Wink Hartman, and former state Sen. Jim Barnett, who was Team Red’s 2006 nominee, are already in the race. Additionally, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer is a likely contender despite not having announced yet, and he may be running as an incumbent if Brownback joins Trump’s administration before his term ends.

• MN-Gov: The GOP already has a crowded field in the contest to succeed retiring Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, but it could still grow larger since two more Republicans have made noise about running recently. Former state Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said last week that she’s “thinking about” launching a campaign, but won’t make a decision until the fall. In 2011, Koch became the first Republican majority leader in generations, but her record isn’t free of flaws for GOP primary voters. Koch resigned less than a year into her term leading the upper chamber after it came to light that she had had an affair with one of her staffers, and she declined to run for re-election in 2012 over the scandal.

Meanwhile,  Rep. Tom Emmer refused to rule out another bid for governor next year, telling a reporter that you “never say never to anything.” As one of the most outspokenly conservative members of the state legislature at the time, Emmer narrowly lost the 2010 gubernatorial contest as Team Red’s nominee. However, he has largely kept his head down since winning a safely red House seat in 2014, which he’d have to give up to roll the dice on another statewide campaign.

• NJ-Gov: “I’m not dead yet, it’s just a flesh wound!” appears to be the message of GOP Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s recently released internal poll from National Research, which shows her trailing Democratic nominee Phil Murphy by a brutal 42-28 spread in New Jersey’s November gubernatorial contest. This survey was from late June, raising the question of why Guadagno waited to release such an unflattering result until now; the answer of course, is likely because the Republican nominee has often trailed by a two-to-one margin or greater in recent independent polls from Quinnipiac and Monmouth. With outgoing GOP Gov. Chris Christie and Trump both despised in the Garden State, Guadagno faces a stark challenge as she tries to succeed her boss this fall.

• NY-Gov: No Democratic governor up for re-election next year earns more ire from the party base than New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but he has yet to draw any noteworthy foe in the 2018 Democratic primary. Two new names have emerged as possible progressive primary challengers, though neither currently holds public office. Former state Sen. Terry Gipson said in late July that he’s considering running for governor, but the former legislator lost re-election in 2014 and failed to regain his Hudson Valley district last year by a wide margin as the region lurched toward Trump.

The other prospective candidate has a more unusual profile: The Wall Street Journal reports that actress Cynthia Nixon, who starred in HBO’s “Sex and the City” TV series, is considering running according to unnamed associates, but there’s no comment from Nixon herself. Nixon has been an activist for progressive causes, but has no experience running for office. She could potentially self-fund, but New York is an incredibly expensive state.

Despite his entrenching Republican control over the state Senate and consequently blocking a tide of progressive legislation, beating Cuomo in the primary will be far from easy for progressives. The incumbent still has a relatively strong approval rating among Democrats, and Cuomo has built up over $25 million in his war chest as of the end of June. Any progressive primary challenger will have to overcome fundraising challenges and will likely have to convince Democratic regulars to ditch Cuomo for reasons that aren’t as convoluted as his enabling of the GOP-supporting breakaway faction of the Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate.

• TN-GovOn Sunday, Democratic state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh announced he is running for governor next year, meaning Democrats will have a real primary on their hands between Fitzhugh and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who joined the race in February. Fitzhugh hails from a rural West Tennessee legislative district that backed Trump 59-40 and Romney by 52-47, making him one of the rare party leaders in the U.S. whose legislative seat backed the other party’s presidential nominee. Despite holding a red seat, he has aligned himself more with traditional Democratic groups like organized labor, in contrast to the more pro-business Dean, who pushed for more charter schools while mayor.

Fitzhugh will first have to overcome one major obstacle if he wants to win the nomination: fundraising. He held just $12,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of June and will essentially be starting from scratch, while Dean had already raised $1.2 million in the first half of 2017. Furthermore, Fitzhugh won’t be able to raise funds while the legislature is in session, a restriction that Dean won’t face. As the CEO of a small local bank chain, Fitzhugh might be able to self fund a decent amount.

If Fitzhugh does secure the nomination, he’ll be undertaking an uphill battle in this deep-red state. In an unusual twist, he could even end up facing a general election with his Republican counterpart in the state House, Speaker Beth Harwell, who ironically hails from a suburban Nashville seat that Clinton won.

• WI-Gov: Democratic state Rep. Dana Wachs launched his campaign for governor of Wisconsin on Monday, making him the first officeholder to join next year’s race against Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Wachs is currently serving in his third term representing a strongly blue Assembly seat in Eau Claire, and he argued he would be better able to connect with the outstate voters who have swung strongly against Democrats in recent years than another Madison or Milwaukee-based nominee.

Wachs’ first challenge will be securing the Democratic nomination, though. Businessman Andy Gronik, who is reportedly wealthy, is the only other noteworthy Democrat in the race already. However, both state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers have filed the paperwork to run while they’re still considering it. A handful of other Democrats are also still thinking about jumping in.


• IN-02: Democrats haven’t had luck winning Indiana’s 2nd District since Republicans drew it to become redder during the last round of redistricting, but the newsletter Howey Politics reports that Democratic former state Sen. Jim Arnold is strongly considering a campaign, though there’s no word from Arnold himself. Arnold previously served as assistant minority leader until retiring from the legislature last year after nearly a decade in office. He currently holds a seat on the LaPorte School Board, and Arnold is also a former La Porte County sheriff, meaning he could start off with some decent name recognition if he runs.

Covering South Bend and Elkhart, the 2nd District favored Trump 59-36and Romney by 56-42, making it decidedly red, but not overwhelmingly so. Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski won re-election easily in 2016 and 2014, but had only scraped by with a 49-48 win when this seat was last open in 2012. Democrats would face a daunting challenge to prevail on such hostile turf, but it’s possible that this race could become competitive during a pro-Democratic wave election.

• SC-01: Republican state Rep. Katie Arrington recently filed her paperwork with the FEC to run for South Carolina’s 1st District against GOP Rep. Mark Sanford. While she hasn’t formally kicked off her bid yet, her political consultant promised that “an announcement is forthcoming.” This Charleston-area seat backed Trump 53-40 and Romney by 58-40, meaning Republicans start out as strong favorites to hold it regardless of whether Sanford or Arrington wins the nomination.

Following his 2009 “hiking the Appalachian Trail” affair scandal, Sanford defied the odds to regain his old House seat in a 2013 special election. While he faced no major challengers in 2014, he only earned a weak 56-44 primary victory against an underfunded state representative in 2016. Thanks in part to his vocal opposition to Trump,  Sanford declared earlier this year that “I’m a dead man walking. If you’ve already been dead, you don’t fear it as much. I’ve been dead politically.” It remains to be seen whether Arrington will finally be the one to end Sanford’s career, but it wouldn’t be the first time he has seemingly come back from the dead.

• TN-02: Longtime Rep. Jimmy Duncan announced last week that he would retire from this safely red East Tennessee seat, and two local Republicans have kicked off their bids to succeed him. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett kicked off his long awaited bid on Saturday, a few days after state Rep. Jimmy Matlock entered the race.

Burchett has talked about running for the House for months, and he also expressed interest in a primary bid against GOP Sen. Bob Corker. Just before Duncan made his decision to retire public, Burchett said he would announce his 2018 plans within days—and that he was unlikely to run for the Senate. It’s not clear whether Burchett helped convinced Duncan to call it a career rather than go through a tough primary, but Burchett could be a formidable candidate in this open seat primary. A little more than 60 percent of this seat is in Burchett’s Knox County and the entire district is in the Knoxville media market, so Burchett should start out with plenty of name recognition.

When Burchett was flirting with a bid for governor earlier this year, he predicted that he’d have trouble raising money. However, a bid for the House is a lot less expensive than a gubernatorial campaign would have been. And unlike in most Southern states, it takes just a simple plurality to win a Tennessee primary, so it’s not implausible that Burchett could coast to victory on just name recognition in a crowded race.

Before Burchett was elected county mayor in 2010, he served for over a decade in the legislature. In 2005, after the GOP took a one-seat majority in the state Senate, then-Sen. Burchett got to play a deciding role in selecting the chamber’s speaker… just not in a way other Republicans may have liked. Burchett and another GOP state senator voted to keep John S. Wilder, a Democrat who had led the Senate since 1971, in power. Two years later, Burchett switched sides and backed Republican Ron Ramsey over Wilder, and Ramsey won the gavel.

Burchett’s machinations don’t seem to have hurt him at all at home: Burchett won renomination to the state Senate without opposition in 2006, and he won the 2010 GOP primary for county mayor with 85 percent of the vote. It seems unlikely that voters will be angry with Burchett almost 14 years later. Still, this story could resonate with conservative purists if someone attacks him for it.

Matlock, who represents a state House seat outside of Knox County, got on the wrong side of his party’s leadership much more recently. Last year, Matlock tried to unseat fellow Republican Beth Harwell as speaker, but he lost the party nomination vote 40-30. A few months later, Matlock was canned as chairman of the Transportation committee.

• UT-03: A few days ago, the anti-tax group the Club for Growth endorsed Chris Herrod, a former state representative who won the state party convention back in June. With a week to go before the Aug. 15 GOP primary for this reliably red Provo-area seat, the Club is up with their first, and likely last, TV spot. Apparently, the Club’s ad makers binged on The Nightmare Before Christmas before this commercial was due, because they produced a Halloween-themed ad aimed at Herrod’s two primary foes, Provo Mayor John Curtis and consultant Tanner Ainge.

The Club’s commercial begins with the narrator asking if it’s Halloween already, because Curtis and Ainge are “pretending to be conservatives.” The two men are shown with cheap masks on, and as some more tacky Halloween-themed graphics flash by, the narrator argues that Curtis actually has backed numerous hikes in tax and fees, including a $12 million sales tax increase. She then insists that Ainge “says we need to be more ‘bipartisan’ in Congress… just like Nancy Pelosi!” Herrod is not mentioned in the spot at all. The Deseret News reports that the commercial is airing for $140,000.


• Special Elections: We have three Midwestern specials on Tuesday. Via Johnny Longtorso:

Iowa HD-82: This race is in the southeast of the state to succeed Democrat Curt Hanson, who died in June. The candidates are Democrat Phil Miller, a veterinarian; Republican Travis Harris, a former school board president; Libertarian Joshua Miller, a candidate for a neighboring House district in 2016; and independent Edward Hee III.

This seat swung heavily to the Republicans in 2016, voting for Donald Trump by a 58-37 margin in 2016 after backing Barack Obama 50-48 in 2012. If the GOP flips this district, it would be their first legislative pickup of the Trump era in a contested special election: Democrats ceded a conservative Louisiana House seat back in March when they didn’t field a candidate.

Missouri SD-28: This is an open Republican seat southeast of Kansas City. The candidates here are Democrat Al Skalicky, a retired teacher, and Republican state Rep. Sandy Crawford. Daily Kos Election’s preliminary results have Trump winning this district 76-20, while Mitt Romney carried it 68-30 in 2012.

Missouri HD-50: This is an open Republican seat just outside of Columbia. The candidates for this seat are Democrat Michela Skelton, an attorney (and yes, a distant relative of former Rep. Ike Skelton), and Republican Sara Walsh, a state party committeewoman and delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention. Daily Kos Election’s preliminary results have Trump winning this district 58-37, while Romney took it 60-38 in 2012.

Grab Bag

• DeathsOn Saturday, former Texas Gov. Mark White died at the ago of 77. White was the last living Texas Democratic governor, and there are only two former Lone Star State governors alive today: George W. Bush and Rick Perry.

White was elected state attorney general in 1978, defeating Republican James Baker, who would later serve as George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state, 55-44. White publicly feuded with Bill Clements, the first Republican to serve as governor of Texas since Reconstruction. Notably, White sued coal companies to try to lower utility bills. White challenged Clements in 1982 and blamed him for the rising cost of utility bills and rising unemployment.

White was decisively outspent but successfully portrayed Clements as a tool of the wealthy, running a spot showing well-dressed people eating caviar while the narrator proclaimed, “From up here, the view of the economy is rosy,” before White appeared in jeans and told the audience, “Texans don’t need a Governor who will listen only to the big shots on Wall Street.” White ultimately won 53-46.

As governor, White backed a law known as “no pass, no play” that required students to pass their classes in order to participate in sports. The law upset plenty of people who were unhappy to see high school and college athletes taken off the playing field. White also established new standards for teachers and raised their pay, capped elementary school class sizes, and required high school students to pass basic skill tests before they could graduate. White raised taxes to finance his education policies, even during an economic downturn caused by the falling price of oil. White also worked to try to make the state’s economy less dependent on the fortunes of the petroleum industry.

In 1986, Clements sought a rematch. This time, Clements attacked the incumbent over the condition of the state economy. “No pass, no pay” also hurt White at the ballot box. Ultimately, Clements unseated White 53-46, completely reversing his 1982 defeat.

Clements retired in 1990, and White entered the Democratic primary to succeed him in December of 1989, months after state Treasurer Ann Richards and Attorney General Jim Mattox jumped in. White took third place in the primary with just 19 percent of the vote; Richards ended up winning the primary and the general. White never sought public office again. However, days before his death, he endorsed nonprofit director Alex Triantaphyllis in the crowded Democratic primary to take on Republican Rep. John Culberson in the Houston-area 7th Congressional District.

• International Digest: Poland’s radical right-wing Law and Justice Party won an unprecedented majority in parliament in 2015, and in short order it has launched a full-scale assault on critical democratic institutions. In a surprise development amid mass protests, the president vetoed two major bills that would have effectively ended any semblance of judicial independence in Poland, but democracy’s future is far from secure. Read more about Poland, Kenya’s upcoming presidential election, and other countries in the August edition of Daily Kos Elections’ International Digest.

• Voting Rights Roundup: Following a recent court order, North Carolina will not have to hold 2017 special elections after GOP legislators redraws its state legislative maps to correct for unconstitutional racial gerrymandering, leaving the existing districts in place until the regularly scheduled November 2018 elections. Meanwhile, a court ruling could force Massachusetts to become the latest state to adopt same-day voter registration, and an effort to restore voting rights to more than 1 million disenfranchised Floridians is gaining steam. Read about these stories and more in the latest edition of Daily Kos Elections’ Voting Rights Roundup.

To advertise in the Morning Digest, please contact advertise@dailykos.com.

The average pay for a CEO of a company in the Northwest is $3.6 million!

We are Working Washington

Did you see this in the news the other day? The average pay for a CEO of a company in the Northwest is $3.6 million!

That’s about $10,000 per day. Every day. All year.

It’s more in a week than the average worker in our state gets paid in a year.

Sounds like a lot, right?

Well… not to everyone: more than 3 in 4 CEOs & Board members think that CEOs are getting the “correct level” of pay.

What do you think:

Is $3.6 million the right amount to pay an average CEO?

thumbs-upYES, $3.6 million sounds just right.

NO, $3.6 million is too much.

exploding head
ACTUALLY, what if $3.6 million isn’t enough…

Thanks for letting us know what you think!
Working Washington

P.S. Don’t you wonder how many of these CEOs think $3.6 million is right for them but $15/hour is too much for us?

Source: NW CEOs sitting pretty, despite public’s view that they’re paid too much, Seattle Times

Michael Brown

U.S. House of Representatives: Pass the Michael Brown, Jr. Law to begin equipping police with body cameras

Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden

on this day 8/9 1936 – Jesse Owens won his fourth gold medal at the Berlin Olympics. He was the first American to win four medals in one Olympics. 

1790 – The Columbia returned to Boston Harbor after a three-year voyage. It was the first ship to carry the American flag around the world.

1831 – The first steam locomotive began its first trip between Schenectady and Albany, NY.

1842 – The U.S. and Canada signed the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which solved a border dispute.

1848 – Martin Van Buren was nominated for president by the Free-Soil Party in Buffalo, NY.

1854 – “Walden” was published by Henry David Thoreau.

1859 – The escalator was patented by Nathan Ames.

1892 – Thomas Edison received a patent for a two-way telegraph.

1893 – “Gut Holz” was published. It was America’s first bowling magazine.

1910 – A.J. Fisher received a patent for the electric washing machine.

1930 – Betty Boop had her beginning in “Dizzy Dishes” created by Max Fleischer.

1936 – Jesse Owens won his fourth gold medal at the Berlin Olympics. He was the first American to win four medals in one Olympics. 

1942 – Mohandas K. Gandhi was arrested Britain. He was not released until 1944.

1944 – The Forest Service and Wartime Advertising Council created “Smokey the Bear.”

1945 – The U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. The bombing came three days after the bombing of Hiroshima. About 74,000 people were killed. Japan surrendered August 14.

1945 – The first network television broadcast occurred in Washington, DC. The program announced the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan.

1956 – The first statewide, state-supported educational television network went on the air in Alabama.

1965 – Singapore proclaimed its independence from the Malaysian Federation.

1973 – The U.S. Senate committee investigating the Watergate affair filed suit against President Richard Nixon. 

1974 – U.S. PresidentRichard Nixon formally resigned. Gerald R. Ford took his place, and became the 38th president of the U.S. 

1975 – The New Orleans Superdome as officially opened when the Saints played the Houston Oilers in exhibition football. The new Superdome cost $163 million to build.

1981 – Major league baseball teams resumed play at the conclusion of the first mid-season players’ strike.

1984 – Daley Thompson, of Britain, won his second successive Olympic decathlon.

1985 – Arthur J. Walker, a retired Navy officer, was found guilty of seven counts of spying for the Soviet Union.

1988 – Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton Oilers) was traded. The trade was at Gretzky’s request. He was sent to the Los Angeles Kings.

1996 – Boris Yeltsin was sworn in as president of Russia for the second time.

1999 – Russian President Boris Yeltsin fired Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and his entire cabinet for the fourth time in 17 months.

2001 – U.S. President George W. Bush announced he would support federal funding for limited medical research on embryonic stem cells.

2004 – Trump Hotel and Casion Resorts announced plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.